Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand

Book launch Fighting for Virtue

Online launch of the book "Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand", written by NIAS Director and NYSEAN Co-founder Duncan McCargo and recently published by Cornell University Press.

The author will be in conversation with two US-based scholars – Tyrell Haberkorn of the University of Wisconsin Madison, and Frank Munger of New York Law School – both of whom have done extensive research on the Thai justice system.

"Fighting for Virtue" investigates how Thailand’s judges were tasked by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) in 2006 with helping to solve the country’s intractable political problems—and what happened next. Across the last decade of Rama IX’s rule, Duncan McCargo examines the world of Thai judges: how they were recruited, trained, and promoted, and how they were socialized into a conservative world-view that emphasized the proximity between the judiciary and the monarchy.

Drawing on a year of ethnographic fieldwork, McCargo delves into three pivotal freedom of expression cases that illuminate Thai legal and cultural understandings of sedition and treason, before examining the ways in which accusations of disloyalty made against controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra came to occupy a central place in the political life of a deeply polarized nation. The author navigates the highly contentious role of the Constitutional Court as a key player in overseeing and regulating Thailand’s political order before concluding with reflections on the significance of the Bhumibol era of “judicialization” in Thailand. Ultimately, he argues, states and societies need to put greater trust in politicians, rather than creating ever more elaborate mechanisms that allow courts and judges to regulate politics.